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Week 2 of the Six Nations concludes with Scotland v France in Edinburgh. This is a big game for the sides having both lost their opening fixtures. Another loss will put them both really under pressure with a wooden spoon decider against Italy likely looming for the loser.
Currently the match is predicted in favour of the Scots, giving them a rather healthy 12 point winning margin, the final score predicted to end 28 – 16 to the home side.
There are those who will say this is optimistic given last weekend’s results (and to some extent we agree) but, for now at least, we believe one bad performance doesn’t mean Scotland should be written off. Statistically, they are still very strong at home.
Scotland and France have met 91 times with the French leading the head to head 53 – 35 with 3 draws. From their first meeting in 1910 until 2000 the head to head was actually fairly equal, with each side drawing blood on a regular basis. However, from 2000, the French began to dominate the fixture, and won 18 of the 20 games played and notching up their heaviest ever win against the Scots, beating them 51 – 9 at RWC 2003.
Recently, however the gap has closed a little, with Scotland winning their first game against the French in ten years at Murrayfield in 2016, and running them very close in the away games in Paris. Currently the Scots are ranked well above the French, who are at their lowest ebb for some time, currently at a career low of 10th in the official World Rugby rankings.
Scotland will be looking to start putting the memories of last weekend’s chastening defeat to Wales to bed. The media sharks have been circling Scottish rugby this week and, although we don’t agree with all the conclusions that have drawn, the manner of the defeat will certainly have taken its toll on the team.
Scotland have not become a bad side overnight, they have made vast improvements from the teams of the mid 2000s and deserve credit for the results that they have achieved recently. However, they are not at the level of the other big sides in the tournament and are often prone to error-strewn displays like that of last Saturday.
Scotland’s home and away record in the Six Nations is stark. Only 2 wins away from home outside of Rome does not make pretty reading for the Scots. However, their recent home run has been good. If they can tighten up on their errors and perform more to the manner we have come to expect from this team, they should beat the French at home. If they do not, then a wooden spoon match with Italy looms, which is not something Scotland would have been considering pre-tournament. The media sharks would really begin to bite in these circumstances, and at that stage, it would be hard to argue it wasn’t justified.
France defended well against a well-drilled Irish side and nearly stole the game at the death. However, had they won, it would have been that – a steal. They themselves never looked like scoring and, Teddy Thomas wondrous try aside, they created few opportunities to do so.
However, they are a difficult side to beat, and Scotland will need to be on their game to do so. If Scotland don’t put France away then, as Ireland discovered, they could easily leave themselves open to one moment of individual brilliance stealing the game.
It will be interesting to see how France match up against a side not as strong as Ireland. They will be looking to get two wins in their next two fixtures over the traditionally weaker sides of Scotland and Italy to set them up for a clear run at some difficult fixtures to finish their tournament. Should they beat Scotland and Italy, then they will be able to approach those two games with a little more freedom, something the French sides usually relish.